Where to Begin? Equity Starts Early
For the past several weeks, The Intersection has focused on equity and education, with education leaders of a variety of perspectives and professional affiliations discussing how the education system can ensure every child has the opportunity to find success in school, work, and life. Equity is—or at least should be—the cornerstone of how we craft policy and systems to ensure prosperity for individuals and society.
However, achievement gaps between students of different socioeconomic status are seen at every level of our education system—in test scores, graduation rates, suspension rates, even in the number of words heard in the first critical years of life. These achievement gaps don’t just happen spontaneously. As the science around early brain development continues to substantiate, adverse environments due to factors such as poverty, violence, and maternal depression shape the architecture of developing brains and have lasting impacts on children’s long-term learning, behavior, and mental health. And so, if we are to get serious about equity, we need to start with the developing brain—we need to build a system of support for children from birth to age 8.
To this end, as policymakers and advocates look to build early childhood systems, there are myriad questions that demand answers: What programs are currently provided by my state? How many families benefit—and how many need access but aren’t being served? How much are we spending? What are our priorities? Where do I even begin?
We hope that they’ll begin with our Early Childhood Landscape briefings for each of the 50 states and D.C. The state-specific briefings compile information and research from dozens of sources to help contextualize and centralize the efforts within states related to children from birth to 3rd grade. Though these packets include over 100 pieces of information and data unique to each state, this project has highlighted that there is plenty more left unreported here—and I look forward to sharing some of the thoughts I’ve been wrestling with in a later post on The Intersection. In the meantime, I hope the briefings will enable folks across sectors, levels of government, and fields of study to understand the status of early childhood, recognize gaps in programming or data, and take action to address inequities from the start.
NICOLE ROSCOE JULIAN